Bristol’s Labour Mayor has refused to support Council workers taking part in what could be the world’s biggest ever Climate Strike on 20th September, after a Green councillor asked him to do so at a Council meeting.
On Friday 20th September young people and workers across the world will be taking part in a Global Climate Strike – demonstrations in Bristol will be led by young people who have been carrying out monthly Youth Climate Strikes in the city since February. On this occasion strikers will be joined by unions and staff from local organisations like Bristol University as part of an international day of climate action. At a council meeting on Tuesday 10th September Carla Denyer, the Green Party councillor who initiated Bristol City Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, asked Mayor Marvin Rees if he would support Council workers taking time off to join the strike.
Referring to the University College Union (UCU) campaign for a 30 minute workday stoppage to join the climate strike, and Bristol University’s support for the action, Councillor Denyer asked: “Will the Mayor join this call and make a similar pledge to support Bristol City Council workers taking time off on 20 September to join the Climate Strike?”
In response the Mayor refused, stating “If staff want to take the time out they would need to take leave and as always this would be with managers approval and service needs being paramount” and attacked Cllr Denyer for raising the issue. (Full response in notes below)
“I’m very disappointed by the hostile answer I received from the Mayor when I asked him to support the Global Climate Strike. The UCU and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) have now backed the strike, as has Bristol University, so it is remarkable that a Labour mayor would not only refuse to support striking workers, but also be so rude about doing so. It is clear that his ears are completely closed to any suggestions from Green Party politicians, even on issues where we thought there would be common ground. I can only hope now that lobbying from the UCU and TUC might persuade him to change his mind.”
The UCU passed a motion at the TUC Congress in Brighton on 11 September calling on all TUC unions to take part in campaign action on the day of the Climate Strike and the leaders of all opposition parties, including Jeremy Corbyn, have also backed the strike.
Bristol UCU tweeted in support of Councillor Denyer saying it was “Proud of @BristolUni's progressive decision to support 30-min solidarity stoppage on 20th Sept” and that Mayor Marvin Rees “would do well to follow suit. And recognize difference between a short solidarity stoppage to demonstrate #UnitedforClimate and a disruptive, terms + conditions strike."
Youth strike organisers attended the meeting to ask their own question of the Mayor but their question was not heard because of time constraints. After the meeting one of the youth strike organisers, Lily, 17, said:
“We’re very disappointed not to have had the chance to ask our question at the Full Council meeting. We hope that Marvin will still consider our request for him to strike with us. We’re also saddened that Bristol is no longer leading the way in climate action. We hope that Bristol City Council will reconsider its decision not to support workers who wish to strike on the 20th of September. City of York, Brighton & Hove and Greater Manchester councils have all publicly shown their support for what will be the largest ever climate mobilisation, and we would love to say the same about our own local authority. With our future at stake we feel that the time for adversarial politics is over, and pettiness (on all sides) benefits no one.”
At the same Council meeting, Labour councillors moved a ‘Green New Deal’ motion which was criticised for not containing any concrete actions. Greens proposed an amendment to add commitments including divesting from fossil fuels and investing in better cycling and walking infrastructure, but it was voted down by Conservative and Labour councillors.
The Climate Strike will start with a demo at 11am on 20th September at College Green, with further details released closer to the date. There will also be a ‘Critical Mass’ style bike demo taking place at 6pm on 20 September organised in part by Extinction Rebellion.
Member Forum Question – Councillor Carla Denyer – Tuesday September 10
Subject: Earth Strike
UCU has stated its support for a 30-minute workday solidarity stoppage to coincide with the global youth-led student strike on the 20th September, and are calling on other unions, universities, politicians and community groups to join them. In early August Bristol University announced that it will support its staff to take part.
Will the Mayor join this call and make a similar pledge to support Bristol City Council workers taking time off on 20 September to join the Climate Strike?
I’ve been clear in my support of the climate emergency – I’m proud of the work we’re doing on this to act and drive carbon neutrality in Bristol.
If staff want to take the time out they would need to take leave and as always this would be with managers approval and service needs being paramount.
Trade Unions in Bristol have a proud history of industrial action to defend and promote worker’s rights. A strike comes with risks and many trade unions members will be able to explain to you the hardship of losing pay to defend terms and conditions.
It would be great if we could see the councillor for Clifton Down actually involving herself in solutions rather than continuously failing to understand the real challenge of actually acting now to tackle the climate emergency. She also has been noticeable in her absence when we have been dealing with social care, children in care, house building, hunger programmes, poverty and immediate challenges that people in Bristol face every day.